These are Upstate New York’s Ten Worst “Small Cities”

New York State, known for its vibrant urban centers and picturesque landscapes, is also home to several small cities that face considerable challenges. This article delves into the ten worst small cities in New York, exploring the factors that contribute to their struggles.


Situated in Sullivan County, Monticello has faced significant economic challenges. With a high unemployment rate and a median household income well below the national average, the city struggles with economic stagnation. Additionally, Monticello has been grappling with issues related to crime and drug use, further impacting its residents’ quality of life.

  • Area: Approximately 4.2 square miles.
  • Challenges: Monticello, in Sullivan County, deals with high unemployment and a median household income below the state average. The area, though compact, grapples with crime and drug-related issues.


Once a hub for the glove-making industry, Gloversville has seen better days. The city has experienced a severe decline in manufacturing jobs, leading to increased poverty and unemployment rates. Infrastructure decay and limited access to quality healthcare and education further exacerbate the city’s problems.

  • Area: About 5.1 square miles.
  • Challenges: The economic decline following the collapse of the glove-making industry has left Gloversville with increased poverty. The small area exacerbates the impact of unemployment and infrastructure decay.


Amsterdam, located in Montgomery County, faces challenges similar to Gloversville, primarily due to the decline of manufacturing industries. The city has a high poverty rate, and many of its buildings and infrastructure are in dire need of renovation. Efforts to revitalize the city center have been slow, further hindering its development.

  • Area: Roughly 6.3 square miles.
  • Challenges: Amsterdam’s struggle is linked to the decline of manufacturing. The city’s area, though moderately sized, faces high poverty rates and requires significant urban renewal.


Fulton’s challenges stem from the closure of several industrial plants, leading to job losses and economic downturn. The city’s population has been steadily declining, and those remaining face higher-than-average poverty rates. Additionally, Fulton struggles with environmental issues due to its industrial past.

  • Area: Approximately 4.8 square miles.
  • Challenges: Once an industrial hub, Fulton’s economy suffered due to plant closures. The city’s area now grapples with economic downturns, population decline, and environmental issues.


On the border with Canada, Ogdensburg’s economy has been hit hard by the reduction in cross-border trade and the decline of its once-thriving manufacturing sector. The city has one of the highest property tax rates in the state, which, combined with a shrinking population, has led to a cycle of economic hardship.

  • Area: Around 8.1 square miles.
  • Challenges: Situated on the Canada-US border, Ogdensburg’s economic woes stem from reduced cross-border trade. Despite its larger area, the city struggles with high property taxes and economic hardship.


Despite its rich history and cultural significance, Jamestown faces economic and social challenges. The city has one of the highest poverty rates in the state, and its education system struggles with low graduation rates and limited resources.

  • Area: About 9.0 square miles.
  • Challenges: Jamestown, despite its cultural heritage and larger area, faces high poverty and educational challenges, affecting its socio-economic fabric significantly.


Norwich has seen a significant decline in its population over the years. The city struggles with a lack of job opportunities, particularly in high-paying sectors, leading to economic stagnation. The limited public transportation system further hampers residents’ ability to seek employment outside the city.

  • Area: Roughly 5.5 square miles.
  • Challenges: Norwich’s population decline is notable in its moderately sized area. The city is hindered by limited job opportunities and an inadequate public transportation system.


Poughkeepsie faces unique challenges as a small city. While it is home to several higher education institutions, it struggles with high crime rates and a significant portion of its population living below the poverty line. Urban blight and a lack of affordable housing are persistent issues.

  • Area: Approximately 5.7 square miles.
  • Challenges: Poughkeepsie, though home to higher education institutions, contends with high crime rates and poverty. The city’s area is marked by urban blight and housing issues.


Similar to its neighbor Gloversville, Johnstown has faced economic decline following the collapse of its manufacturing base. The city has one of the highest rates of vacant and abandoned properties in the state, contributing to its urban decay.

  • Area: Around 4.9 square miles.
  • Challenges: Johnstown, similar to Gloversville, has witnessed economic downturns post-manufacturing decline. The small area faces issues with vacant properties and urban decay.


Although larger than the other cities on this list, Binghamton’s inclusion is due to its significant challenges, including a declining population, high poverty rate, and struggling local economy. Once a thriving industrial center, Binghamton now grapples with the aftermath of industrial decline.

  • Area: Approximately 11.14 square miles.
  • Challenges: Binghamton, though larger in area, struggles with a shrinking population, poverty, and economic challenges following its industrial decline.

These small cities in New York reflect the broader challenges faced by many communities across the United States. Economic shifts, particularly the decline of manufacturing and industrial jobs, have left deep scars in these urban landscapes. Revitalizing these areas requires a multifaceted approach that includes economic development, infrastructure improvement, and social support systems. The journey towards recovery is long, but with targeted efforts and strategic investments, these cities can hope to rebuild and thrive once again.